‘The Old Guard’: Indie comic as basis makes movie more grounded, grittier

Charlize Theron (left) and  Kiki Layne in a scene from 'The Old Guard' (Photo from Netflix)

Hollywood has always had a habit of borrowing material from other sources.  In the past these sources have usually been other films, plays, books and the classics. In this era of the Marvel movies, the move has been more and more to tap comic book stories for adaptations, and to that end streaming giant Netflix isn’t going to be left behind.

            After their successful handling of Marvel properties such as “Daredevil,” “Punisher” and “Jessica Jones,” Netflix has picked up several comic series or graphic-novel-based titles, such as the recent hit, “Extraction,” the new “Warrior Nun” series based on the 90’s indie comic, and the much-loved “Umbrella Academy” (which is returning for season 2 soon!)

            The latest of these is “The Old Guard,” based on a mini-series by Eisner-Award winner Grecg Rucka (“Wonder Woman,” “Elektra”) and artist Leandro Fernandez (“Punisher Max,” “Deadpool”), and published by Indie comic stalwart Image Comics.

            The film follows Andy, or more correctly Andromache of Scythia, played by Charlize Theron, as she leads a group of immortal mercenaries on missions they deem for the greater good.  No stranger to action films, having done feature films the likes of Aeon Flux and Atomic Blonde, Theron carries the role of a slightly jaded, ancient warrior convincingly and with ease.

            While the story introduces us to all the players, it does skip over the usual origin story dynamic. The movie opens with the team already formed and being around for an unspecified number of years, and given the movie’s premise, that could mean a large number of years.

            Nile Freeman, played by Kiki Layne, is the newest member, and we get to know the crew through her eyes. Her questions are our questions. How does it work? Why them? Why now? Part of the hook of the movie is not all the questions are answered in any straightforward way, and while it does have a story with and ending, it leaves enough open for a sequel should the powers that be deem it so. But really, when your cast has lived hundreds of years, why stop at one feature-length adventure?

            Harry Melling, known to the world forever as Dudley from the “Harry Potter” franchise plays the villain, a young CEO with his own agenda and the resources to see it through.  Also adding considerable star power is Chiwetel Ejiofor of Doctor Strange fame, as Copley a former CIA spook and sometime handler for the team.

            The movie follows the comic as faithfully as can be expected, with Rucka on writing duties for the film as well.  It’s not exactly a comic book movie in the vein as Marvel or DC, but that’s ok.  This is based on an indie comic, and the treatment is different, more grounded, a bit grittier, and the characters a lot less sure of themselves.  They’re not so much heroic as they are doing some good as they try to get by.

                        The action is fast and unforgiving.  There is a lot of gore, but not to the point of being gratuitous.  And while the plot itself may be along the lines of what you would expect from the genre, there’s enough mystery and interesting characters to more than keep one’s interest and wanting a sequel.